Thursday, May 14, 2009

Robinson Crusoe

By the time you read this my wife and I should be in the company of half a dozen friends and beyond the reach of modern technology...We somehow found ourselves in the middle of a whirlwind camping trip to the Dry Tortugas, she and I led by Carol who decided it was time for her two dozenth camping trip to the fort, Key West's own backyard wilderness. I wrote up a brief essay on October 16th 2007 when my wife went with a friend to the Dry Tortugas and I used her pictures. I myself haven't been in ages, maybe three years.It's a three hour ferry ride west of Key West to the old Civil War fort that has been turned into a National Park on the 16 acre island. On the scrap of land in the middle of nowhere (well out of cell phone range!) there are a few camp sites underneath the fort's walls just outside the moat. With absolutely no supplies or facilities beyond a crude salt water toilet (which turned out to have been uopdated to a composting model):

I have sailed out there several times and enjoyed anchoring in the protected lagoon south of the fort, but I have never camped on the beach so this will be a first. Also the weather through the weekend is forecast to be windy with the chance of thunderstorms so things might be more interesting than just three days of bland sunshine...

As far as my lack of connectedness goes I have lined up daily essays to cover my absence but I won't be around to clean up the spelling goofs and layout oddities that blogger likes to throw in from time to time. All of which offends my sense of order. Somehow I doubt I shall have too much time to worry about such trifles for there are tents to erect and meals to cook and reefs to snorkel. And all too soon I will be back at work Saturday night ready to obliterate comments and download photographs, I'm sure. Au revoir.

Big Sky

Montana calls itself Big Sky Country, a motto that comes into my head whenever I'm in the back country.
I think it's the wind that whistles insistently in your ears, and its the sound of your feet crunching on gravel or dried mud, cracking twigs accompanied only by the big silence all around. You could easily be in Big Sky Country.But wait! That isn't Montana, it's Eastern Washington, south of Spokane, an area I'd never heard of before I came across the "Two Wheels and and Engine" blog whence came this picture. It's called the Palouse, this piece of Big Sky and the author took a ride in third gear and came home with a story, published on the Third of May (I think; the gray font is a little indistinct). The blog is in my web list: essay caused me to think about the sense of openness one finds not only in open country wherever it may be but also when one isn't caged by a roof. Many people go camping (which is where I am today actually) to find that Big Sky, some of us ride a motorcycle. Me? I boat and see open horizons, I bicycle and find myself in it five minutes from home.I manage to make myself small even without the help of the gorilla pod, a bicycle flat on it's back makes a crude place to perch a camera:I like my big skies over water which is not apparently possible in the Palouse......a place that is highly suitable for an enduro style motorcycle like the author's KLR650. I thought about the popular single cylinder KLR until I stood alongside one and started laughing at the prospect of getting into a saddle that came up to my chest. Besides I don't have any proper dirt trails to get lost on.I noticed also on another blog I read occasionally written by a cyclist in Juneau, how expansive her life became when she took a road trip south. Suddenly I saw how cramped and hemmed in Juneau appeared, even from the tops of the mountains surrounding the city-on-a-fjord, compared to the wilderness of Oregon and even Northern California, which, when I lived there seemed not so vast. Sometimes all you have to do is take a look over your roof to see the big sky.
On the subject of blogs I noticed with dismay in "Scootin' Old Skool" by Orin O'Neill that he has been left scooterless. After years of dogged determination he found his old school two stroke Vespa 150 was inadequate for modern road speeds and sold it. At that moment his modern Vespa GTS 250 died repeatedly from some electronic malady and he put it up for sale. He took this picture of two scooters on a trailer to mark his black vehicle's ignominious return to the shop:My GTS developed similar symptoms; it was a relay next to the headlamp they told me, while unable to explain why it kept blowing. I sold mine. Orin didn't sell his because his dealer offered to get it repaired for free. That must be nice. I got berated by Vespa Fort Lauderdale whose chief mechanic accused me of abusing my scooter to cause it to break down ("This hasn't happened to any other Vespas"). I'm still sore about how they, and Piaggio, treated me and my $7200 scooter. This new episode leaves me feeling bad for Orin O'Neill whose blog is about riding a scooter in Seattle and now has no two wheeler at all in his garage.
My wife's carburetted ET4, 150cc runs just fine but I know now I would not buy another GTS. Indeed I wouldn't touch any of Piaggio's motorcycles- Gilera, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, none of whom are backed by a company serious about customer support. I spoke with the former Vespa dealer in my hometown in Italy and he said he dropped the franchise because he couldn't get spares from the factory 200 miles away. I hope Orin gets back on the road soon.